Warmer temperatures bring more construction throughout the Metro, but one spot in Albuquerque is catching attention for what isn’t happening.
For days, orange traffic cones have been posted but no construction crews have broken ground on Coal Avenue between University Boulevard and Buena Vista Street, through to the CNM campus.
The normally two-lane stretch of Coal has been squeezed down to one-lane of through traffic. Some drivers who spoke to KRQE News 13 Wednesday noticed the bottleneck at University, where traffic is asked to merge.
“I went through there earlier and I had no idea what it was for, I didn’t see any construction or anything like that,” said Andrews.
What should be under construction along Coal is a sewer line replacement project from the Albuquerque Water Authority. Crews were supposed to start work on Monday, June 3.
As of Wednesday, the barrels remained but no work had started.
“It’s a problem, it’s annoying, I mean it just causes traffic to pile up,” an Albuquerque driver said to KRQE News 13 Wednesday.
While CNM hosts smaller summer classes for students, the area remains a busy thoroughfare for downtown-area neighbors commuting up through Nob Hill or to the city’s stadiums, which host New Mexico United soccer and Albuquerque Isotopes baseball games this time of year.
At a news conference last summer, Mayor Tim Keller announced a new city plan to crack down on excess cones and barrels in areas where crews weren’t actively working.
“One of the things that’s most frustrating for Burqueños is when you’re sitting there in traffic, you’ve got the orange barrels, and nothing is actually happening, Keller said. “We’re going to try to eliminate that at least on city projects.”
The Albuquerque Water Authority is no longer technically part of Albuquerque city government, but the city’s updated orange barrel policy still applies to the work the authority’s contractors do in city streets.
“Obviously they have rules, and we do everything we can to abide by them,” said David Morris, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
So why hasn’t construction started? Morris says the contractor, AUI Incorporated, was slated to start work Monday but delayed the project due to a problem with another contract.
“The contractor had an emergency elsewhere that they had to deal with,” said Morris.
Morris says the cones were left up for a good reason: crews found a surprise water line leak.
“They decided to err on the side of safety and leave the barricades up in case that water line break caused any pavement collapses or anything there,” said Morris.
Morris tells KRQE News 13 that crews should begin work on Thursday, June 6.
Some drivers hope that’s right.
“I mean come on, if it’s that dangerous, let’s get some work done!” said Steve Andrews.
The city has ramped up the fines against contractors. Last year, the city wrote 35 citations against various contractors for barrel related issues, totaling $17,500. Each fine is typically $500.
The Water Authority says the Coal Avenue project should continue through June with the goal of wrapping up by August. The authority says crews will remove extra barricades for Isotopes game traffic.